RESERVE ARMIES OF THE IMAGINATION
One of the most striking features of the recent wave of global protests, from Athens to Occupy, Tahrir Square to Taksim, has been the profusion of images and slogans they have generated, a creative ferment that has fired radical imaginations in one country after another. Yet the successes that many of these movements have achieved in the realm of discourse—the concept of ‘the 99 per cent’, for example, is now common currency—for the moment far outstrip any actual political gains. There are several possible explanations for this disparity: the sheer weight of elite power and privilege, the absence of fully worked-out programmes for radical change, combinations of co-optation and repression. But is it possible that the gap between the two forms of representation—political on the one hand, cultural on the other—is a constitutive feature of contemporary reality? And that the explosion of communication enabled by new technologies and social media, as well as bringing ever more people onto the political stage, is simultaneously a mechanism for the exclusion of millions of others? According to the art critic and film-maker Hito Steyerl, the link between political and cultural representation, never straightforward, has become profoundly unstable in the image-saturated neoliberal era; we live in ‘an age of unrepresentable people and an overpopulation of images’, in which ‘a growing number of unmoored and floating images corresponds to a growing number of disenfranchised, invisible or even disappeared or missing people’.
’My institution subscribes to NLR, why can't I access this article?’
By the same authors:
Fine-grained reading of the films of Andrei Zvyagintsev, from the abstract allegories of his earlier work to the unsparing portrayals of contemporary Russia in Elena and Leviathan, exemplary of a new social turn in post-Soviet cinema. Reflections of class polarization and fables of power, with Orthodoxy as its prop.
Lives of Jughashvili
Tony Wood on Stephen Kotkin, Stalin, Volume I and Oleg Khlevniuk, Stalin: New Biography of a Dictator. Contrasting portrayals of the ‘man of steel’.
Collapse as Crucible
While Russia’s anti-Putin demonstrations have prompted talk of a civic awakening—led by a flat-pack middle class—the country’s overall social landscape remains largely unmapped. Tony Wood surveys its shifting structures since the Soviet collapse, and the consequences of marketization’s advance through the USSR’s ruins.
Silver and Lead
Tony Wood on Anabel Hernández, Los señores del narco. The structures of political complicity and corruption that have fuelled Mexico’s drug wars.
Good Riddance to New Labour
As the British general election approaches, a balance-sheet of New Labour’s thirteen years in office. The record of Blair and Brown—imperial wars abroad, subservience to the City at home—as so many reasons to cheer their downfall.
Latin America Tamed?
Tony Wood on Michael Reid, Forgotten Continent: The Battle for Latin America’s Soul. A revised neoliberal gospel for the region, courtesy of the Economist.
Contours of the Putin Era
Responding to Vladimir Popov, Tony Wood examines the geographical and social distribution of Russia’s recent economic growth. What are the priorities and outlook of the emerging business-state elite—and whom will Putin’s ‘stabilization’ benefit?
Celluloid and Plasma
Tony Wood on Laura Mulvey, Death 24x a Second. How has the digital era changed the cinematic viewing experience—and the spectator? Freeze-frame fetishism and narrative disruption from Lumière to Kiarostami, via Hitchcock and Rossellini.
Annals of Utopia
Tony Wood on Andrey Platonov, Happy Moscow and Soul. Recently discovered works by the neglected giant of twentieth-century Russian letters. The singular language and multiple ambiguities of Platonov’s style, and heroic impasses of his life and times.
The Case for Chechnya
Eager to embrace Putin, Western rulers and pundits continue to connive at the Russian occupation of Chechnya, as Moscow’s second murderous war in the Caucasus enters its sixth year. Traditions of resistance, popular demands for sovereignty and Russia’s brutal military response, in Europe’s forgotten colony.